Dec 16, 2012

'Red rain from outer space - Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe

It should be noted that the good professor has long campaigned for the theory that life originated on Earth via extraterrestrial seeding.  That is, organisms came here on meteors or other space debris.  So this fits perfectly with his theory.  I find it hard to believe that real space stuff in the form of red rain only happens in the region of India and Sri Lanka.  See what you think.

Tharaka Gamage The Nation, Sri Lanka
Red Rain
© The Nation, Sri Lanka
The peculiar 'red rain' is a novel phenomenon for Sri Lanka. The Medical Research Institute said it contained some kind of algae. And very recently, Industrial Technology Institute also announced that it contains heavy elements such as arsenic and silver. Is it possible these elements to enter the atmospheric clouds? What kind of algae is it?

What is the real reason for such an event?

The Nation had an opportunity to ask the said questions from the principal investigator, who studied the red rain occurred in Kerala some years ago, a Sri Lankan-born British astrophysicist and astrobiologist, currently the Director of the Buckingham University Centre for Astrobiology, Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe.

Q. How would you explain the red rain phenomenon recently occurred in Sri Lanka?

We haven't investigated red rain in Sri Lanka yet, but I have been very closely involved in the red rain studies in Kerala, southern province of India. This took place in 2001 and 2008. Samples of that red rain were sent to me for investigation. I had a big team of investigators working with me.Although we were in possession of the samples for several years we have still not identified what sort of organism it is. It's a living organism, we have been able to replicate it and we found that it multiplies in a temperature up to 1200C at least, perhaps more than that. I think this is a very strong case that micro organism from space made their way down to the Earth with the red rain. These organisms had probably originated in a comet or a piece of a comet that exploded in the atmosphere. This is my conclusion for the red rain in Kerala.

Sri Lanka's red rain looks similar to that of Kerala. The Medical Research Institute (MRI) says that the organisms are similar to fungal, algal organisms of earth. But I believe that the shape is the only similarity. The conclusion had not been made based on any genetic or DNA studies. But the similarity of the organism to anything on the Earth does not mean that it came from the Earth. If life originally started from the Earth then to find living organism coming from space would be very strange. There is a long culture of belief that life started on the Earth. If that is true, we have to find some explanation, which is earth based. I am sure that if life did not start on the Earth it came from space.

Samples of Kerala red rain were sent to Cardiff and I organized investigations by scientist in the US, Sheffield in the UK and also in Cardiff. We have to derive DNA from the samples. The red color is due to pigmented red cells. That looked like algae, normally found in water and soil on the Earth. It is easy to look through the microscope and say it came from the Earth and was blown upward and got into the clouds and water condensed around these cells. There are many problems with this hypothesis; the first problem is physical or mechanical. Million of tones of these red cells had to be lifted to the clouds from the surface of the Earth.

Tornado-like atmospheric events could do it, but normally you would not expect that much of biological materials to lift to the clouds in the troposphere and then come back down. That's one mechanical problem. The other is that we still have not identified these organisms in the red rain in Kerala with any known earthly organism. When we try to study the DNA it doesn't show up in any recognizable form. So it is a mystery. The point is that it could be from a different planet or different cosmic environment. This is the most likely explanation.

If it came from space, it could have arrived at the Earth via a comet. We know that meteors and bits of comets fall from the sky and burn up on entering the atmosphere. But a large enough piece could have contained living organisms of red cells.

Q. Have you studied other similar phenomena except the Kerala red rain?
I think there was a report on red rain in Brazil or South America, but no one has collected any samples and no one has seriously studied it. When the red rain in Kerala happened in 2001, it was thought to have been desert dust from the Sahara. But the difference between dust particles and living cells are very obvious. Red rain cells have cell walls and internal structures, it is certainly not dust. Then next possibility is blood cells from bats. That is a bizarre hypothesis, so we have to look for some other explanation.

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
© The Nation, Sri Lanka
Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Q. Is this a rare occurrence?
It became common only recently. The Kerala red rain made headlines and then the Sri Lankan red rain. It hasn't been talked about but it doesn't mean it has not happened. If you have small showers of pinkish rain people tend to ignore it. However the Sri Lanka rain was very red.But historically there have been stories of blood falling from the skies. Even in the Bible rain of blood has been talked about. I think it has happened in the past.

Q. Have you observed any astronomical phenomenon related to red rain?
Correlation has been noticed. There are regular meteor showers. During a meteor shower the Earth goes through a debris trail of a comet. Comets go around the Sun, leaving dust and big chunks of comet. It's like a tube around the sun. Every year the Earth crosses the tube or comet debris. These are what are referred to as meteors. They go through the atmosphere at high speed and burn up. If there are large enough fragments, they explode in the atmosphere. If they have living cells, they could disperse in the earth's atmosphere. Coincidentally the Sri Lankan red rain also happened in November, a time meteor showers frequently occur.It could be a lager than normal chunk of comet that intercept the earth over Sri Lanka, and deposited the spores in the local clouds.

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